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While the stars are growing dim in the pre-dawn sky, the matriarch of Kuru dynasty – Satyavati -- arrives on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to hold a discussion with Kunti, Gandhari, Draupadi and Rukmini. She is determined to bring a peaceful settlement to prevent the war in her dynasty. She requests Bheeshma, the eldest Kuru and chief commander of Kaurava army, not to proceed with war unless he hears from her. This message brings a relief to Bheeshma who is reluctant to this war.

On the other hand, Draupadi, burning in the fire of revenge for last thirteen years desperately wants this war to happen. A messenger comes to her camp to give a message from Satyavati that she is invited for a discussion to make a peaceful settlement. Can there be a settlement to this war -- no, there is no settlement, and Draupadi is resolute. Satyavati tries to convince her grand-daughter-in-law to make a sacrifice for the sake of others. Gandhari tries to convince Draupadi to forgive her sons; because from her experience she knows that what starts as an act or thought of revenge ends up as revenge on oneself. Draupadi stands accused in the court of Satyavati of being selfish. As she battles for her rights and justice, she feels the burden of war looming on her shoulders. Draupadi is trapped in her own past and surrounded by elderly women of Kuru dynasty, who enjoy her entrapment. Will she relent?

At the last, Rukmini reaches to the discussion court she convinces everyone that it’s not always a woman who has to sacrifice. She also proposes that this war is a result of the past actions. Reading a note from Rukmini, Krishna enters the discussion court. He then brings another perspective to the war.

Mahabharata is a text known for its layers. Here is a book that uses the story as a perfect backdrop to discuss questions that are very relevant for our times. Through the various female protagonists, we see the travails and tribulations of our very own existence, mirrored in these characters.

The five women represent the five elements, and here we see them come alive in their innate form. Kunti resembles the earth element with her nurturing nature; Satyavati resembles the water element with a lucidity of flow of her thoughts and actions; Draupadi resembles the fire element with passion and vengeance in her character; Gandhari resembles the air element with purity and elusiveness of her character; and Rukmini resembles the space element with the enormity of her character.

Mahabharatee is the first feminist Gita, the perfect dialogue. It leads to where every other philosophy leads: self realization.



A fisher-girl raised as a commoner, enters into the prestigious Kuru dynasty as a queen and becomes a matriarch of the dynasty. Satyavati makes such a powerful impact on the story of Kuru dynasty, that she makes each reader of Mahabharata take a note of her character. Her actions are so effective and forceful that they directed the course of Mahabharata. This journey of Satyavati exhibits the exceptional management capabilities which make her an extraordinary character.


Draupadi, a fire born girl, is an epitome of womanhood. The identity of Draupadi is not limited to being a daughter of a king or being a wife of heroes. With the remarkable strength of her character, Draupadi can be considered as the female ‘Hero’ of Mahabharata. In fact, her actions are so forceful that she has directed the course of Mahabharata; and therefore has been commonly regarded as ‘a cause’ of the Kurukshetra war. She sets before us an excellent example of an empowered woman who dares to walk on the path of progress trespassing all the existing boundaries and sets a new horizon of womanhood.


The life journey of Kunti is full of accomplishments, with no stone of opportunity and responsibility remaining unturned in the path. She has paved a path of many important events, making her actions the cornerstones of the course of Mahabharata. The vast range of positive attributes of Kunti leave us astonished. It shows that she is a woman made up of an unconventional mold. An unconventionality of thoughts and actions gives Kunti the status of being a sacred woman in Indian mythology.


Gandhari - a wife of Dhrutarashtra and a mother of Kaurava - is one of the tragic characters of Mahabharata. For years together, she has been looked upon as a mother of villains and has been accused by the society for this role. However, though being on the side of the villains, she differentiates herself with her character. She stands out for her righteousness and purity of character. She resembles a statue of justice with blindfolded eyes that possesses acumen to differentiate between right and wrong and weighs the justice without a conflict of interest.


Rukmini epitomizes independence and individualism. Her expressions and opinions show that she has a high level of thinking ability, she can judge the situation well and she can express her thoughts in a clear manner in order to make others understand the same. She always has an impressive impact on others. She has a high level of mutual understanding in her relationship with Krishna and she understands his relationship with other women like Radha and Draupadi.


The Sanskrit word ‘bharati’ means an Indian knowledgeable woman. The five women of Mahabharata – Satyavati, Draupadi, Kunti, Gandhari and Rukmini depict the true power of an Indian woman. Thoughts and actions of these women encompass this change of social context and leave us greatly astonished with their modernity. In the époque where woman’s equality was not even in question and her existence was decreed by men, this independence of thoughts and actions shown by these women is itself creditable and can be perceived as an initial spark for lightening the path of woman empowerment.

Author : Shruti Hajirnis Gupte

Shruti Hajirnis Gupte is a chartered accountant by profession & is pursuing a career in the corporate world. She is a disciple of Dr. Sucheta Chapekar. A Bharathanatiyam dancer by passion, a lover of literature and a connoisseur of French & Sanskrit, Shruti has written this book while taking care of her cute, little toddler.

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Cover art by Sonia Kumar
Sonia Kumar is a ludhiana based artist whose work contains intricately portrayed figures with delectable ornamentation.

Book Review

"It makes a deeply engaging and interesting read, beyond doubt."

Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, President, Indian Council for Cultural Relations

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